Migration and adaptation: a case study from the Khulna-Jessore region

by Nazia Bushra, Research Assistant, Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU)

Khulna stands on the banks of the Rupsha and the Bhairab rivers, located in southwest Bangladesh, and it is the geographical mid-point between the ports of Jessore and Mongla. It is also the second largest seaport of the country.

image001In the coming years, the Khulna-Jessore regions are going to become increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Khulna is already prone to salinity intrusion and cyclones.  Less fresh water now flows in the adjacent rivers and saltwater intrudes here from the Bay of Bengal.  Also, the local shrimp aquaculture is affected by viruses and other harmful factors related to high salinity and the increase in water temperature.

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In the case of Jessore, the increased salinity, floods, and storms are all major drivers of human migration from this locale.  In order to obtain accurate data on the magnitude of migration and adaptation status of these two regions, we conducted a household survey of the 8 mouzas of these two cities. During the household listing survey, we found that people are suffering here from livelihood crises and related economic challenges. A large portion of household members that we interviewed were educated, which might explain their tendency to migrate to other regions and abroad.  However, some of them are adapting to the present situation by adopting new technologies.  They cultivate saline-resistant rice varieties (e.g. IRRI-11, 23, 54) and vegetables (e.g. water-melon, pumpkin etc.) but most cultivation takes place only during the rainy season; in dry season they usually buy vegetables and crops from neighbouring areas.

In Khulna, some of the most challenging environmental situations are found in Amurkata and Paikgachha. The communication system, mobile networks and food accessibility are all hampered by logistical issues.  Environmental problems such as salinity of drinking water, low diversity of crop varieties, waterlogging, and cyclone-induced tidal surges are pervasive in this area. Local NGO’s such as ASA, BRAC, JJS, NOBOJUG etc. are trying to provide fresh water to these areas and the government is also constructing some cyclone shelters. Because of the prevalence of cyclones, most of the houses are made up of mud and conventional golpata, and electricity is relatively scarce among these types of dwellings.

In Jessore, Bahadurpur village has two areas named Mathpara and Hotatpara which received many migrants from neighbouring areas during times of flood and other natural disasters. These displaced persons are economically vulnerable as they try to adapt to life here. They face unemployment, job insecurity and the lack of other basic facilities, such as a scarcity of clean water. The unhygienic sanitation conditions, combined with the other difficulties, have led to a high incidence of diseases.

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One village above water, another below

by Md. Saiful Islam (Sourav)

I got the chance to work for RMMRU and through this organisation, I was able to visit many places that I have never been before. I visited these places for my research work which allowed me to visit many rural places. This was my first opportunity to learn first hand about nature, climate change and life in these regions.

I was surprised when I saw village people surviving day by day for their livelihood or family. Two villages were divided by a road, one village is still under water and another is more developed. That village is still underwater because of the environmental situation and its location near the river.

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I was also surprised when I saw a mother with three sons. One son was an AGM at the Bangladesh Bank, another was a Supreme Court advocate and the third was a businessman. They don’t contribute to their family at all Рnot even to their mother. They don’t help financially Рnot even a single taka. To hear that was very difficult and it never stops to bring tears to my eyes. Some people never build or construct a building because of the cyclone of the floor. This is because these types of events keep happening. They know that if they build a house this month that next month another cyclone or flood may come. What is the point?

To sum it up, I learnt a lot during my visits to these places. One question always returns to me: how do people live? How do they survive? But still, they do survive. They are the actual fighter.

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The challenges of living with climate change in Noakhali and Laxmipur Districts

by Aysha Akter Akhi

It is a nice opportunity to work with RMMRU on the DECCMA project. For the purpose of completing this work, I got a chance to visit the Noakhali-Laxmipur region of Bangladesh. This visit enabled me to talk with the people of this remote area. I visited 7 Mouzas in Noakhali and Laxmipur district. The people of these areas are mostly affected by the consequences of climate change. Cyclone, flood, river erosion, scarcity of rain, heavy rainfalls are frequent in these areas. Among 7 Mouzas, I found that the Char Elahi Mouza of Companigonj of Noakhali district is the most vulnerable.

image001I went to Char Lengta of Char Elahi which is very close to the Meghna River. People who live on the bank of the river are at serious risk.  Because of environmental factors like river erosion, many people have lost their houses, lands, and other belongings. They live in bamboo or tin-metaljhupri houses.

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Economic difficulties mean that attaining regular meals is difficult for many people here. Some have responded to these difficulties by becoming migrants. Many are living in the homes of friends and family places, while some have taken shelter in Mosques and Primary Schools. The usual occupations for many of these people are fishing and cultivation, but at present they have no land to cultivate and there has been a drastic reduction in fish populations in the river. Many are not provided with basic human rights, like food and shelter.

For these reasons, people in Char Elahi have a lot of complains against their local representative. They claim that not a single person is ready to hear them or even to talk with them, and that help is far away. When I went to talk with those people, they thought that perhaps I would do some help or provide financial aid to them.  Alas! there was nothing I could to for them except listen to their sorrows and sufferings.  I observed their lives and their needs very closely. They fight with nature early and late with great courage.

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The lives of littoral people in Rehania

by Tamanna Nazneen

Rehania is a coastal village in Bangladesh on Hatiya Island, Noakhali.  Cyclone, coastal flood and water salinity are some of the common natural hazards in Rehania.  Recently, a research survey led by DECCMA (Deltas, Vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation), under RMMRU (Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit), has been held in this area.  For this reason, I had the great opportunity of going to Hatiya and observing the lifestyle of the people in the Rehania village.

Most of the people of Rehania are the victim of natural hazards like floods, river erosion and cyclones. They migrated here from other coastal areas of Noakhali, Lakshmipur, Bhola and Sandhwip (Chittagong). They lost everything from river erosion and cyclones. The Government re-housed them on the two sides of river dam and gave them a small amount of land per family but it was inadequate.

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There is a lack of effective livelihoods. At first, people earned their livelihood by farming and fishing but the farming lands in the surrounding areas are also affected by flooding, more than three times per year. Flood water is very saline here and as a result the farming land has become saline. During the dry season, a white layer of salt is visible on the land so farming becomes difficult.  Farmers grow Aaush paddy (a variation of paddy which grows in the summer and is harvested during the monsoon), chilli and ground nut but in most cases crops are destroyed because of flood and water salinity.

Due to global warming, sea levels are rising and salinity of the sea is entering up stream through rivers and feeder canals resulting in most of the farmers changing their livelihood.  In recent years, they earn their livelihood by fishing and doing other jobs through migration.  Seasonal migration is an important livelihood strategy to these families.  More than 70% of their incomes are derived from outside the village.  Most of the seasonal migrants work in brickfields in Chittagong under a contract and after a working season return home with their wages, of which a significant amount is spent buying fishing nets and boats (in share).  They also send some remittances for their family. Fishing is their monsoon season job and during dry season they always migrate for other work (in brickfields).

In Rehania, many women are self-employed doing animal husbandry.  They lease cattle and tend. In exchange, they get some money and can sell milk after giving a specific portion to the cattle owner.  When we went to Rehania village for the survey and wanted to interview them, at first, they thought we were government workers who had come to them for reporting about their life conditions, so that they could get their desired governmental help for materials for building more sustainable houses and a sanitary latrine. They were eager to take effective training about cultivation methods of flood prone areas and also wanted a subsidy for agriculture, saline water tolerant crop seeds and fishing materials.

When they came to know about our research and its aim, they became tamed, but most of them spread their helping hand and cordially responded to our questionnaire. Though their life is afflicted with lots of pain, they never give up their smiles and hospitality.  Whenever we went to any respondent’s house, they treated us with green coconuts, ground nuts, mangoes and whatever they had.  We were amazed with their cordial behaviour and realised again the hospitable nature of the Bangladeshi people.

We were also amazed with the children of Rehania. They were very interesting and curiously stared at us with our tablets and questionnaire papers. They wanted to follow us around but we insisted that they did not and instead go to their school. Whenever it was possible we offered them chocolates, biscuits and juice to have with us. They also gave us red hibiscus flowers. This flower is available in every house and roadside.

Natural disasters are a part of their life.  They always have to face it and struggle against it just like other littoral people. Naturally, they are brave and have adaptational capacities in such a hostile environment. They know how to keep their house safe from cyclones by planting banana and coconut trees around their houses.  For a better livelihood they migrate to other places and try to send remittances. They are optimistic about their life. They just want some help from the government to make their livelihood more sustainable.  The days may be hard, but their hopes and aspirations are never tamed. The always-smiling face is the symbol of their life spirit.

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Trees and tender-heartedness in Borguna

by Shihab

Nowadays, migration and climate change are talked about regularly. When a person goes from one place to another, this is called migration.  My long dream was to work for the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) and these days have been some of the greatest of my life.  During the field trip, as a supervisor, my main task was to supervise and monitor the field.

First of all, RMMRU selected a team which consisted of seven members (including myself).  My first trip was to Assassuni in the Satkhira Districts.  After a long journey, we arrived but when we disembarked from the bus, we faced different types of problems that came one after another. Due to the strong bond of my team, we overcame all the problems.  Every member of the team was kind and our sophisticated thinking allowed us to handle any type of problem easily.  After Assassuni, we went to Kaligong in Satkhira which was an excellent area.  After completing our work in Kaligong, we reached Satkhira Sadar.

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As usual, we awoke early in the morning and after breakfast went to the¬†field but didn’t find anyone.¬† After searching, we came to the conclusion that there was a listing problem.¬† So, we came back to Dhaka with the work unfinished.¬† After four days rest, we went to Borguna which¬†was very enjoyable compared to the other areas.¬† Every village was covered with trees and informants were so friendly.¬† Right now we miss those people.¬† That was the story of two fields, they are Hoglapasha and Borguna Sadar.¬†¬†Gendamara was a very¬†different field and also difficult.¬† I have¬†never seen a village as large.¬† There were no transport systems in the whole village and villagers are used to walking, although we are not! ¬†We worked easily and were enthusiastic about being there. ¬†After completing the Taltoli field, we went to Patuakhali Kalapara, after which we got a one day vacation, which we used¬†to visit Kuakata where you can watch the sunset and sunrise.¬† We saw some nice nature and water.¬† In this same way we finished our Patuakhali Sadar and Mirjagong field. ¬†Banajora Boufol in Patuakhali was so different from the other places.¬† We encountered some folks who held strong views and this created some difficulties. Still, we enjoyed a full moonlit night with the river blows which was amazing. After four days rest, we prepared to go to a new field in Chandpur, which is known for being abundant with fish.¬† Above all, I like to describe my happy moments, however, I think I hold this memory in the corner of my heart.¬† Thanks to RMMRU for this excellent trip, I eagerly await the next opportunity.

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Migration & Adaptation: A Short Story of Khulna & Jessore

by Md. Niaz Murshed

Khulna is the third largest city in Bangladesh. ¬†It is situated on the banks of the Bhairab and Rupsha rivers. It is also the centre point of the Khulna division. Khulna is also known for its port. This division consisted of ten districts and it is the gateway to the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.¬† Mangla is home to an important port for Southwest Bangladesh. ¬†It has fabulous natural beauty but the lifestyle is not so easy here: drought, cyclone and other weather events are a regular phenomenon. ¬†With each day, the risks increase. The local people have to fight for water on a regular basis. Khulna is also in a dangerous point because of climate change. Experts think that the future will be worse than the present.

image001 Phultola is a village in Batiaghata Upazilla near Pashur river. Most of the population is educated. Some people are living in other cities because of their studies and employment, and some are living abroad. People are mainly involved with agriculture. They are producing seasonal fruits and crops including paddy, daal, several vegetables, etc. Most of the houses are made of wood and leaves. Some people are engaged with prawn cultivation. Drought and cyclone are the main natural disasters here. Because of the saltiness in the soil, agriculture is becoming increasingly difficult.

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Saral Ward of Paikgacha Upazilla is situated in the middle of the Upazilla and most of the people are permanent residents. They are mainly engaged with business, though some people are involved with prawn cultivation.

The devastating form of nature can be seen from Amurkata , a village of Soladana Union of Paikgacha. It is situated near the river, Shibsha. The village has poor communication systems. Van, motorcycle and various local vehicles are the main medium for transport.  For 2 pots of water, village women have to go three or four kilometres away from the village.  They don’t have proper drinking water or water for daily use. Most of the people work outside of the village.  Most of them go to Gopalganj or Khulna district for a job. During cultivation, men and women work together in the field.  Amurkata has huge lakes for prawns.  Those who have smaller fields cultivate prawns and crabs. Due to saltiness in the water, they do not have any other option for cultivation. Houses are made of several leaves and soil. Because of the cyclones, there is a school which can also be used as a cyclone centre.

image003Our second place was Jessore beside Kapataksha river which is linked to the poet Michael Madhushudan Dutta. ¬†Jessore is one of the districts of Khulna and one of the oldest cities. It has eight Upazillas. During the British Raj period, Jessore was a ‚Äúmahakuma‚ÄĚ.
Kotoali, Bagharpara , Keshobpur and Manirampur were our workplaces. Bahadurpur of Kotoali Upazila had less risks. Sekandardarpur of Bagharpara and Panjia of Keshobpur are less affected by natural disasters. Only Diganga of Manirampur has the risk of flood, but it is not because of nature, it is because of drainage problems.

After observation on four Upazillas of Jessore we found that people are mainly involved with agriculture but they work in their own fields with different vegetables, paddy, mustard, daal and wheat. They produce fruit for a commercial purpose.

To have a good lifestyle, people work in the capital city, their own divisional city or abroad. For higher education many people live in cities.

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Work with RMMRU and DECCMA: seeing a new side of Bangladesh and feeling a deeper connection to the country as a whole

by Rabeya Bosri Chandni, Research Assistant

While working at RMMRU, it was easy to forget I was in an office. Everyone is very cordial there. Colleagues are often introduced as ‚Äúsenior friends.‚ÄĚ

image001We worked in Khulna, Jessore, and Bagerhat Districts. Among the various field-sites we worked at, I remember two names especially ‚Äď Moralganj and Amurkata. In my opinion, the situation in Amurkata indicates the unequal development that occurs across Bangladesh. Many essential facilities seem to be lacking or in need of improvement. Similarly, people in Moralgonj face difficulties in accessing clean water, while also being vulnerable to getting trapped in the oppressive loan-interest cycle.

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These experiences have certainly impacted my professional life, but they have also made an impression upon my personal life. The culture of teamwork that I encountered in the work especially, has influenced me in a personal way.  Also, I feel even more connected to my identity as a Bangladeshi citizen because of my participation in this work.

Through this work, I have seen my country in a new face, which is not gorgeous and not well-developed.  It is, I think, a sleeping beauty.  The visits to various Upzillas of Bangladesh have created a feeling of real citizenship for me. Living in a particular area gives a person a particular sense of identity, of belonging. However, I feel as if this fieldwork experience has enabled me to go beyond my Dhaka and Gazipur identities, so that I now feel that the whole country is my place.
I would like to thank the DECCMA project and all of my colleagues at RMMRU ‚Äď I‚Äôm grateful that I had the chance to work with them, and learn so many things from them.

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The lengths one must go for drinking water

by Aysha Akter Akhi

image003I went to Noakhali, Laxmipur, Khulna, Bagerhat, Jessore, and Gopalgonj for field surveys for the DECCMA project and¬†gained so many experiences from this journey.¬† Among them, I can share the place called Amurkata of Paikgacha of the Khulna district where¬†there is a scarcity of drinking water. This area of six or seven kilometres has no internal transport. People paddle from one part to another. The ground in that area is high in salinity. There are also very few trees and the weather is quite rough. People often travel three of four kilometres by foot to collect drinking water from a deep well which is placed in a¬†‚ÄúLocal Bazaar.‚ÄĚ Every day in the morning or evening, they go with one or two jars to collect water. In today‚Äôs age, this scenario is shocking to see.image001

Working with RMMRU on DECCMA; The memories I will not forget

by Rafiqul Islam, Research Assistant (RMMRU)

Life is full of experiences and I want to share my experience about the journey to perform research with RMMRU and about the memorable time I spent with my colleagues.

First, I want to give thanks to my Lord because I think I am so lucky to work with RMMRU for a few months. In those few months I have learned many things from RMMRU and from my colleagues.

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First, I went to Chandpur, Lakshmipur and Bhola to conduct household listing surveys. We faced some accommodation problems. My colleagues were very supportive and helpful to me as we overcame all sorts of problems regarding staying, eating, and travelling. I was one of the younger members of the team, so I received love from my senior brothers.  I am a jolly-minded person, so I can communicate with my respondents and my colleagues spontaneously but when we had to do the surveys, we had faced some problems because we had no female members in the group. When we reached each household, a few people were reluctant to participate in our survey but generally the majority were very helpful to us in our research. After completing these surveys, we returned to Dhaka.

In April, we left Dhaka again for another round of field work and to conduct interviews with selected respondents. This time I was in a new group. Our journey was good and we had 7 members on our team, including me. My partner was Tamanna Apu. Frankly speaking, at first I was not comfortable with her because her way of thinking and my way of thinking was a little bit different. Gradually we understood each other’s work and we became good friends for the purpose of the work. My other team members including Musabbir Bhai, Saiful and Roni Bhai, Ridita and Popy Apu were too good.  We had two members replacing Roni Bhai and Saiful were Himel and Tanjim Bhai. They were also friendly.  Every morning the females got up early in the morning, got ready quickly and were waiting for us.  All of these moments were so memorable for me and made for a very friendly work environment. This friendly attitude among the team members was not limited to the work but also in all spheres, generally, we got along as a team. I really will not forget those days.

Another memorable day was visiting our field work by Ricardo and Rocky Bhai in Lakshmipur.  I was little bit sick and nervous that day because Rocky Bhai scolded us for our mistake. At that moment I was sad but after, I realised that it was my fault. I always respect and love Rocky Bhai from the core of my heart undoubtedly. A most horrible experience occurred on 28th May 2016.  On that day we started our journey from Lakshmipur sadar to Bhola on a trawler ship, when suddenly a storm began.  All of us had begun to fear for our lives, but by the grace of almighty Allah we made it through. We have finished our journey through some ups and downs but in the end, the experience left me with one of the more significant memories in my life.

It was a great opportunity for me to work with a reputed organisation like RMMRU. Finally, I want to thank all the members of RMMRU.

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Land disappearing beneath your feet – environmental migration in the Sundarbans

by Colette Mortreux, Rituparna Hajra and Tuhin Ghosh (DECCMA)

Like all deltas, the islands in the Sundarbans are constantly being remoulded by environmental forces. Formation and reformation of islands results from the balance (or otherwise) between inflows of water and sediment load. When rainfall or snowmelt in the highlands is high, the greater erosive force of the river reduces the size of the islands; but when water in the river is reduced it encourages sedimentation and the growth of the islands. Sea level rise also plays a role in the dynamic environment.

Map 1: location of Ghoramara and Sagar islands in the Indian Bengal delta

Map 1: location of Ghoramara and Sagar islands in the Indian Bengal delta

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Ghoramara island, in the Hoogly estuary in the southwest of the Sundarbans (map 1), was formed in the early 20th century. Particularly high water levels submerged a larger island ‚Äď Sagar (see map 1), resulting in the formation of five additional islands. It remained relatively stable when the freshwater flow from the Ganges River was fairly stable. Underground tectonic movements then led to a slight shift eastwards in the course of the Ganges. The result was that water inflow was significantly reduced and, as the dynamics in the estuary responded, Ghoramara began to be eroded. Its land area has halved in less than 40 years ‚Äď from 8.5km2 in 1975, to less than 4.5km2 in 2012 (map 2).

Map 2: Shrinking area of Ghoramara island between 1975-2012

Map 2: Shrinking area of Ghoramara island between 1975-2012

Recognising the dynamism of deltas, in the late 1970s the Government of West Bengal declared Ghoramara island as ‚ÄėNo man’s land‚Äô. Support for protective infrastructure, such as the construction of embankments, and services such as health, drinking water and education was stopped. As the land disappeared beneath their feet, the 5000 inhabitants of Ghoramara had no choice but to leave their homes ‚Äď true environmental migrants.

Together with environmental migrants from two other islands that has been completely submerged ‚Äď Lohachara and Khasimara ‚Äď residents of Ghoramara were resettled in seven colonies on other islands, or on the mainland. Land Records from Sagar Block highlighted that legal titles, or pattas, were granted to the environmental migrants to Sagar Island. First phase migrants in the 1970s and 1980s, mainly from the submerged Lohachara sland, received 1.2-1.6 acres per each household. Those from Khasimara and Ghoramara tended to migrate later, in the 1990s. They were granted smaller plots (0.4 to 0.8 acres) but also received a one room house from the government schemes (Indira Awas Yojana).

Environmental migrants to Sagar Island were also supported with activities to enable them to rebuild their livelihoods. Stable embankment, fresh water ponds were constructed, and government food rations were available until they became established (including 300 gms wheat and 500 gms rice per head per week).

Figure 1b: Population Growth Trend in Sagar Island during 1971-2001 (Source: Ghosh et al. 2014)

Figure 1b: Population Growth Trend in Sagar Island during 1971-2001 (Source: Ghosh et al. 2014)

Figure 1a: Population Growth Trend in Ghoramara Island during 1971-2001 (Source: Ghosh et al. 2014)

Figure 1a: Population Growth Trend in Ghoramara Island during 1971-2001 (Source: Ghosh et al. 2014)

The problem is that the ongoing influx of migrants led to population growth in Sagar Island exceeding projections (figure 1a & b). This has placed a strain on resources. Resettled migrants now complain of degradation in their living conditions, including lack of availability of drinking water and sanitation.

Neither India’s national government nor the state government of West Bengal have resettlement and rehabilitation policies to cover displaced people, which means that there is also no planned compensation package. Population pressure and the resultant demands on resources mean it is not realistic to expect the authorities in the receiving areas to provide livelihood compensation for environmental migrants. Some are able to practice fishing, deep sea fishing, and agriculture. Others are forced to migrate again, shifting the problem elsewhere. Given that the nature of the delta means land is going to continue to disappear beneath people’s feet, a proactive approach by government is necessary to provide for environmental migrants.

 

 

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